Fairlady #5 // Review
Private Investigator “Fairlady” Jenner is attempting to save the life of someone from her past. It’s not going to be easy, It’s going to require teaming-up with a Fairman. It’s going to involve more danger than she’s faced in the previous four issues. And it might just mean her death as Fairlady #5 slides through a little fewer than 40 pages written by Brian Schirmer with art by Claudia Balboni. In the past, it appears as though the one-story-per-issue format might be broken down into a two-part story. This issue seems to make that inevitable in a very engrossing story with a layout that is at times breathtaking.
The story opens with Fairlady Jenner laying on her back in a pool of blood. Things have gone horribly wrong for her. The rest appears in a flashback. She’s been looking into the disappearance of Samanda Messilis--someone tied to her past. Samanda was looking to be safe from various dangers, so Jenner took her to a secure site known as The Village. Jenner is contacted as Samanda has escaped from the village, evidently killing three people including a constable. Jenner vows to track her down.
In the four issues leading up to this one, Schirmer’s scripts have had a very tight and stylish wit about them. Opening as it does with Jenner lying in a pool of her own blood, this issue is remarkably dark from the first panel to the last. It’s a slickly moody kind of darkness that maintains the style of the first four issues of the series without bending to any sense of levity. Even when the panels are immersed in the action, there’s a cool pensiveness about it all. That pensiveness feels cooly overwhelming when the story moves to stiller, more reflective moments.
Balboni’s genius has played-out slowly throughout the series thus far. There’s plenty of action in Fairlady, but the heart of every issue has been some form of mystery. There are only so many ways to visually explore the world of a mystery. Any long-running TV police procedural or detective serial is going to feel kind of repetitious over time. Balboni’s delivery of the mystery in this issue plays out in sequential art AND clever pairings of isolated images against compelling text by Schirmer. Balboni is playing with a very brilliant sense of layout that draws the reader into the mystery in a way that would be lost to a more traditional panel-for-panel comic book.
Things have gone very, very badly for Jenner in this issue. The dive into the darkness this issue shows a willingness to vary the mood and tone. To show a real progression in Jenner’s long-range character development that could be quite dynamic over time. The challenge here might be keeping things fresh over the very, very long-haul as so much seems to be happening for the young Fairlady in such a brief time. The series appears to be rounding-out the first half of its first (of hopefully many) years very dynamically.